Leonardo Ulloa proved an able deputy for Jamie Vardy as Leicester City took a huge step towards the Premier League title with a nerveless 4-0 win over Swansea City.
Claudio Ranieri’s side were without their top scorer Vardy after his dismissal in last week’s draw with West Ham, but Riyad Mahrez’s early opener, a brace from Ulloa either side of half-time and a late Marc Albrighton strike ensured they got back to winning ways and piled the pressure on Tottenham once more.
Mahrez is hot favourite to be named PFA Player of the Year later on Sunday, and it was the Algerian’s 17th league goal of the season that set Leicester on their way, as he capitalised on a glaring error from Ashley Williams to open the scoring after 10 minutes.
Ulloa – who was forced off late on with a knock to the back – then powered Danny Drinkwater’s free-kick past the helpless Lukasz Fabianski on the half-hour mark, and the Argentinian’s second 15 minutes after the restart sent the King Power Stadium into raptures before substitute Albrighton rifled in a fourth late on.
Victory puts Leicester eight points clear of second-placed Tottenham, who can again cut the gap to five by beating West Brom at home on Monday.
Should Spurs drop points, though, Leicester would seal a remarkable maiden top-flight title by winning at the home of 20-time champions Manchester United next Sunday.
Swansea’s confident start was undone by their captain’s carelessness.
Williams gifted the ball to Mahrez around 20 yards out, and Leicester’s dangerman advanced into the area before dipping inside onto his favoured left foot and coolly placing a shot beyond Fabianski at his near post.
That settled any early nerves at the King Power and the hosts’ advantage was doubled in the 30th minute.
While Ulloa may not boast the pace and dynamism of Vardy, his aerial prowess was there for all to see when he climbed highest to head Drinkwater’s excellent delivery home.
Swansea could have responded immediately, but Federico Fernandez failed where Ulloa succeeded as he nodded Gylfi Sigurdsson’s set-piece over from close range.
Leicester, roared on by the home fans, set about putting the game completely beyond doubt in the second half – and it was Ulloa who did just that on the hour.
Jeffrey Schlupp charged down the left and eventually found the right pass to Ulloa, who slid in at the back post to convert from no more than two yards.
The Foxes were rampant now and Schlupp, Shinji Okazaki and Andy King – on for Ulloa – went close to adding a fourth, before Albrighton did so in the 85th minute by lashing home after a scramble in the Swansea area to put Leicester within touching distance of history.
Key Opta stats:
– Leicester City registered their 22nd victory of the season, their biggest haul of wins ever in a top-flight season (21 in both 1928-29 and 1965-66).
– Riyad Mahrez has been involved in a joint-league-high 28 top-flight goals this season (17 goals, 11 assists), level with team-mate Jamie Vardy.
– Danny Drinkwater provided his sixth Premier League assist of the season, but his first for anyone other than Jamie Vardy.
– Leonardo Ulloa has scored three goals in his last two Premier League games, as many as he had scored in his previous 25 this season.